Bungie

No Satisfaction : Destiny 2

Media is reporting that Destiny 2 physical sales are down 50% during this period over the 2014 Destiny 1 release. While not a big surprise as consumers shift away from boxes, analysts hit Activision pretty hard.

“The launch month of Destiny 2 was well short of the original iteration by a material amount,” Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson wrote in a note to clients Friday, citing the NPD data.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter also called the “Destiny 2” sales “underwhelming” in a Friday report.

Pachter added the September NPD “Destiny 2” sales data missed his forecast for the game by 37 percent.

I take no joy in this, but am also somewhat okay with the fact that (if reported correctly) the market is voting with their wallets.

I still believe that Destiny 2 is what happens when you try to launch a big game with as small of a budget as possible. I do believe, since the game is really just a reskin of the first, that it will be Activision’s most profitable game – maybe ever. So little work went into Destiny 2 as a sequel that an expansion team probably built it. So, while the market and analysts may be giving Destiny 2 a hard time I am sure Kotick and company are laughing in the background because they are still going to make billions off of a game they put little effort into improving.

Activision didn’t even really help matters by not gushing over the sales volume of Destiny 2, back like it did for Destiny 1.

Activision Blizzard on September 15 announced Destiny 2 sales “surpassed the original’s records for engagement and digital sales in launch week.” However the company did not reveal a total sales number for “Destiny 2” inclusive of physical retail store sales in contrast to the “more than $325 million” first week press release for original title in 2014.

When you stop bragging about things it’s normally because you have nothing to brag about (cue World of Warcraft subscription numbers). Then again, they may be waiting for the PC release. This too will be skewed information since you can buy Destiny 2 with WoW tokens now. Either way the game has earned it’s negative press. I am nearing max light and I haven’t seen a raid or a nightfall strike. I wait until Tuesday (reset), get my 3 powerful engrams – one of which by doing an activity I hate (Crucible) get a few light levels and abandon the game for the rest of the week. There is nothing there for the 84% of the player base (on PS4) that hasn’t completed the raid.

Outside of the terrible story and the recycled enemies, weapons,and classes the ‘true emperor has no clothes’ moment for me came this week when I was playing and I realized that they didn’t fix the AI. Destiny (1 and 2) had two quirks with it’s AI that I always thought was completely lazy (noticing a theme here?). First, let’s revisit when I called them out on crappy AI in 2014:

The AI is some of the worst I have seen in modern day FPSs (to be fair, I am comparing PC FPS AI – I don’t have a console experience equivalent). At best it is the same as FPS games i have played in the last decade. This was an opportunity to really step up the genre not be the status quo. I was fighting through the final Moon “task” mode last night and there was a room that was hard to complete – I started retreating backwards and I hit an invisible line on the ground that soon as I passed, the mobs stopped attacking and turned around. I could still shoot them. Step forward, they turn around and charge. One step back, they turn their backs to me and walk away, I shoot them. Rinse repeat.

I had not experienced this in Destiny 2 but I found it once again while questing for my Midi Multi tool. Swarms of thralls start rushing me and I think I am going to die. I am backpedaling, pull out my shotgun, grenade is on cooldown, Super is not charged – this is going to be a tense moment and I am probably going to bite it but maybe, just maybe I can pull it off! Continue backpedaling while shooting, health is at 5%, 10-15 enemies are on me AND – they stop and run away. I crossed a line on the ground that made them disengage. Step forward, they stop running away and charge again! Step back one step and they run away again. You can trivialize encounters this way. I did.

It’s the exact same game, kids.

Add to the bad AI is that when you die enemies continue to shoot at your “ghost” / body.  You are dead. Enemies keep shooting you. There is no AI trigger to stop shooting the dead guy and focus on the other, live players in the room.

There re many other games to play and Destiny 2 will be out of the spotlight until the next DLC which I (now regrettably) pre-bought  with high expectations they would improve the game. I will probably complain at that time (rightly so) that the DLC content should have been in at launch since there is so little content to do currently. My guess is that the DLC is already done and they are just waiting for the right lull in interest to fire it up to get back to media sites and good press about the amazing “new” content they have provided.

And yet I play my hour or two each week waiting and hoping the game will somehow just get better. That makes me almost as – or just as – bad as them.

Third Party Markets – Destiny 2

In 2008 I argued that the best way to solve WoW’s third party gold selling problem was to sell gold themselves. They had lost the ability to control their own in game economy and the best way to fix that would be to crowd out the third party markets making it not worthwhile for the hackers and bots.  At that time, I didn’t even suggest to exchange that purchase for more in game time but I did suggest you support the buyer with a lower subscription fee. That would balance out the developer greed of inflating the in game economy further. While I did not envision the WoW token it was a problem that needed to be solved back then. And here we are, with it solved in WoW.

Destiny 2 is now also facing this problem. I have two of my character classes in the mid 270s and at this stage I can only improve my character by grinding super hard for the fraction of a chance for a fraction of an increase, join a clan and tackle very challenging end game content, or stop playing. I instead moved to my third character slot and have my Warlock in the mid 200s meaning I have another week of playing before parking my characters and waiting for DLC to arrive.  I have (and keep) mentioning how frustrating that is considering the way the market is and how a game like WoW realized how to engage the casual core by making content accessible. Destiny 2 opted against that for the weakest of reasons, that they were worried it would create ‘toxic’ behavior. Clearly, if WoW can have Mythic+10 PUGS not go toxic so could Destiny with a little bit of effort.

I keep making that argument because I am still not buying it. And instead of an average game with amazing mechanics I believe D2 could be an amazing game with amazing mechanics. A little bit of investment and effort would help that.

Of course, what Destiny 2 takes away from the casual player base is now being monetized by third parties.

Whether or not this marketplace would exist with accessible content is anyone’s guess s- but the truth is WoW gold selling websites now sell gold for more than Blizzard does – meaning the market shouldn’t exist, isn’t profitable, and has been successfully neutered. I don’t care enough about the game to invest on third party sites to see the content, but I do care enough about the game to wish they would do the right thing and provide that content to their customers. Only 11% of the player base has been in a raid. Their “guided games” feature will not improve that. It should be 80% – which they will never hit.

In my WoW RMT article linked at the top I admitted I bought gold. I was raiding hard and didn’t have the time to grind the gold to get the mats to build the things I needed to raid effectively. That is a work/play balance WoW had wrong back then.

Good games learn from mistakes (theirs and others) and it is not too late for Destiny 2 to add matchmaking to their more challenging content. The base content has ZERO challenge and I think they would be surprised at both the quality of their player base and their ability to play the game as intended with matchmaking.  They have specifically stated this will not happen but I hope with all the negative feedback they are getting on this issue they will reconsider – even if legacy content is added with new DLC or some way to get the players playing the game they paid for. There is not a reasonable argument to not have your game’s content easily accessible in a walk in the park game like Destiny 2, and it may even encourage and support in game RMT purchases.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say : Destiny 2

Then do a sh*t sandwich! For those who are not aware of what a sh*t sandwich is, it is a criticism sandwiched between two compliments. That way the entity on the receiving end hears something positive about them, then something negative, but ends on a high note with something positive again. It’s a way to make giving (and receiving) criticism – no matter how constructive or beneficial – more pallatable for both the receiver and the giver. A lot of businesses use this technique around employee review time.

I *do* have nice things to say about Destiny 2 – chiefly among them is that I am still playing despite the corners cut, excuses made on features that should/shouldn’t be in the game, and overall development laziness with the title. It fills a niche that nothing else does (please, someone – anyone – please?) and is fun to play. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t challenge the status quo and push for better. Because it could be so, so much better. In an effort to be more balanced to D2 I will do that galactic gaming version of the sh*t sandwich!

The Top Bread

The musical score in Destiny 2 is immersive and incredible. I am not a music “guy” per se – I often play my games on mute so I can be in the same room as my family as they watch TV / movies. This way I can still play games while still conversing and feeling like a part of the group – instead of tucked away in an office with a headset on. Sometimes I do put in one earbud on a quiet level to make sure i don’t miss in game cues to events or gameplay but for the most part I am completely happy playing my games in silence.  This is one of the rare cases for me that the game is far less immersive without the music. The score (that is the proper way to use the terminology, right?) captures the mood of the planets, the pace of whatever event you may be doing and just adds so much to gameplay. I know there are some blogs dedicated to music in games but it has not been a personal priority for me – Destiny 2 has done such a good job I am inclined to explore music in gaming further.

The Sh*t

(Don’t ask why I am self censoring on my texts while I let the GIF swear away. I mean, it’s not me, it’s the GIF! This is a family friendly blog!)

Lack of a group finder. Please, for the love of Cayde-6, extend your group finder to Nightfall Strikes and Raids, even if you have to make an “easier” version of each that rewards a bit less. This is 2017. TWO THOUSAND AND SEVENTEEN! It was the most requested feature in 2014 and will continue to be so for the typical, casual, solo player who would like to enjoy all content. There is a reason why World of Warcraft continues to be the best at inclusivity (just ask them, and they will probably even show you how it’s done, since you are buddies with them!) and also reasons why games that exclude content for the “hardcore only” lose out in the end. Take some of the millions saved on your writers and voice actors and apply it to a LFG matchmaking mode. I know I have said this before but in the era of accessible gaming this does come down to laziness. If randoms can PUG Mythic +7 dungeons in Legion, randoms can PUG your raids. Don’t be that company.

The Bottom Slice

There is no lack of progression early and often and there is just so much to do that I am overwhelmed with content. I know this won’t last long, but my Titan is at 265, Hunter at 250, and Warlock isn’t even level 20 yet so I know that even without the opportunity to enjoy all parts of the game I will be able to enjoy some fully. I am nervous that when I hit that wall I have nothing to do but wait for DLC (which happened last time) but I am probably a week or two away from that  – meaning that if I got a full month out of the game that that is a fair expectation by today’s gaming “standards”. (I had well over 100 hours in ME:Andromeda, but that is a different story!) My complaints towards Destiny 2 is only because it could be so much better with just a little effort.

Just don’t eat the sandwich.

Rant On : Fornite, Rant Off: Destiny 2

Rant On

The news that the Fortnite Battle Royale Mode – which currently does not have the capability for a revenue stream – is going completely free to play in 6 days is another head scratcher.

Read the release here. With a line about some PVE content that may or may not be coming, at some point.

Forget the fact that you have diverted away all of your paid for resources (PVE content) from your base game (PVE content) to crunch time develop a free PVP mode instead of supporting your paid for early access player base (PVE content). Forget all of that for just a second. (I can’t)

Would be an interesting idea to let everyone play the Free To Play (eventually) base game (PVE content) to make sure people have lots of other people to play with. There is also a revenue stream there in Llamas that could further build development budgets. But I get it – in order to that you would have to have a worthwhile to play game beyond the first city with compelling and immersive PVE content. Which, I am sure they will get to fixing and developing as soon as this side mode (PVP) is all fixed up and no longer a distraction.

Of course – to compensate for this change they are offering a refund! Well, a refund to anyone who bought the game to play Battle Royale between September 12th and September 19th. If you bought the game to support Early Access development of compelling PVE content you can’t have a refund. Even though they are abandoning ¹ that part of the game.

OK, I get it. the PVE part is done. Better to accept defeat and move on! Just say so. Admit it.

Bait and switch, losers.²

Rant Off

Destiny is not forgiven for failing to living up to my lofty expectations being awesome (or at least, much better) but it did give me some fun gameplay last night. I played through some Strikes (5 mans in MMOs are my most-favorit-ed thing, and I have always enjoyed them in Destiny as well) and also played some Crucible matches. The Crucible matchmaking wasn’t well done (4 randoms mish-mashed against a clan of 4, all of which had over 290 Light) but that was over quickly and painlessly anyway. They have a system to somewhat normalize the gear and levels – unfortunately you can’t do that to coordination of a clan team versus a rag tag crew. Premades only fighting premades is a good place to start.

The Strikes I did were fun, challenging, and introduced some old mechanics in new ways to keep it interesting. The story line is pushing into “so bad that it’s good” territory – cringe worthy cut scenes that are fun to laugh at and accept the ludicricy that anyone involved in the game would think it would be an engaging narrative. It’s the video game story equivalent of Sharknado. The acceptance here is that they are way too far down the path to actually fix the story now, and I need to prepare myself ³ for Sharknado 1 through 5 – the Destiny 2 version.  Is phase three acceptance? or is that something else? I found this flow chart to help me deal with that I will never get what I want from Destiny 2. It’s too late.

The Psychology of Disappointment

But, at least, I can still get some good. Which remains to be seen if that is possible with Fortnite. Their next PVE patch needs to be bigger and better than anything they have launched, and needs to outshine their new PVP mode – IF they hope to keep their PVE group (many of which feel like I do) which in the end may be the lesson they learned from their Early Access experiment – that their core game is too broken to fix.

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Footnotes

¹ abandoning in actions, not words. So far.

² I am one of the losers. Fortnite is the first early access title I have ever regretted buying. And as a reminder, I bought Landmark.

³ I find the O button, ‘skip cut scene’, as the current  best solution

Destiny 2 – Not a Sequel, as Suspected.

I am not picking on Destiny 2 for the sake of it. I like the game. My disappointment rests on the fact that it has underachieved in my eyes as a true sequel and opportunity to move the game forward. This thought was further compounded by the seemingly light and lack of content in the game. “Four new planets!” you say. The truth is, each has very little in terms of content to begin with. Everyone who has played D2 a reasonable amount is already pushing up against the hard Light level cap, and are even trying to find ways to “game” the system to not feel like they are crushing their skull against it. Two weeks in.  My own experience has been they have given us these neat new planets, but very little story missions on each. The game also really feels like they channel you to these little narrow spaces (tightly on rails) and when you pull back the curtain the new areas feel really, really small. Back to the story missions – I remembered how much time and enjoyment I had with the Taken King expansion in Destiny so I used that as a comparative.

Destiny 2 comes with 16 story missions in the main campaign.

The Taken King expansion had 31. That is not a typo.

You might argue on varied length, etc. I haven’t gone back through to time them all, but there was definitely more content in TTK.

Destiny 2 has two strikes to start off their new “sequel”. One of which is a PlayStation exclusive. So, technically, it launched with a single strike.

The Taken King (again an expansion) has five. FIVE.

I think what Destiny 2, Bungie, and Blizzard has pulled off here is amazing. They built a sequel by recycling 90% all enemy assets, some minor visual and gameplay tweaks, hired a high school writer and AV club to do the voice acting for the cut-scenes (my apologies to High School AV clubs – you deserve better!). In terms of dedicated budget this expansion had to have been minimal investment (based off of what we got) – and with the huge sales it may be one of the industry’s largest returns in 2017. So from a business perspective, it’s brilliant. What will be even more brilliant <sarcasm alert> is that the next two DLCs (which many pre-bought) will probably bring the total content up to what a real launch of a real new game – especially an IP as deserving of Destiny – should be. It’s really frustrating and depressing when you look at it through that lens. Worse yet, the DLC might actually have more content than what is available in D2 now. It should, unless they are skimming on that also.

Heck, User scores on Metacritic [5.9] (which I am not a huge fan of to begin with) are approaching Mass Effect: Andromeda levels [5.0] which is a shocker considering there is no Alt-Right / SJW arguments about sexuality and social agendas with Destiny 2. Not yet, anyway.   On the upside, the Metacritic fan reviews are actually surrounding gameplay, lack of change, missed opportunities, and attacking the terrible story line. I haven’t read through all 1000+ of them but the reviews are actually focusing on the game – not the people who made it, or the perceived issues that need to be in or out of the video game narrative.

Gosh, I have been cranky lately around here, haven’t I? So unlike me.

I know people are enjoying it and I admit that I am too – but the nagging thought that we have all been part of a big scam, a rouse, is hard to ignore when you look at how little content was actually provided with how little change. It feels like I ordered the Prime Rib at a fancy restaurant but instead got ground beef that was shaped to look like Prime Rib. Failed analogy – I don’t even like red meat. Point is, it just feels off. Feels Wrong.

I like gaming sequels and I accept that things need to change, and that companies might take risks with that. The best part of sequels is that you normally get some familiarity with a bunch of new “stuff”, and usually a slew of improvements and, well, change.  They may not always hit the mark but at least you can tell there was effort – that they tried.

Ultimately, I think, that is why Destiny 2 missed the mark for me.

Destiny 2 – What Could / Should Have Been

I think the Aggronaut and I are the main discussors of all things Destiny in this corner of Blognation, (Adding Dragonchasers to this short list) so I won’t continue to link to him on each post but chances are you are already reading him anyway. We are on different paths of our initial enjoyment of Destiny 2 and it will be interesting to see how or if they converge at some point. Will his satisfaction start to wane while mine grows over time? Will he stay strong and I’ll hit some new part of the expansion that surprises and delights me ramping up my happiness with the game? Who knows – it definitely will be interesting to see and we’ll no doubt revisit that in the month(s) to come. Because, for all of my issues with it, I do expect to be playing Destiny 2 the way through. I am about half way through the campaign at this point.

I still can’t ignore the missed opportunities. There are several, low hanging fruit that I fully expect in a major expansion, worth of the “2” label. There are many examples of this – Diablo 3 is very different from 2 or 1. Look at the way major titles have changed and improved over the years. A true sequel should be a major step forward  where an expansion is often a small step. Here (in no particular order) are the easy and obvious things Destiny 2 missed out on.

New Class

There isn’t much that is more exciting than a new way to experience a game. A new class is probably the biggest. The Titan, Warlock, and Hunter classes are different enough to be worth playing them all in look and feel – but no reason why a fourth class couldn’t have been introduced. The game did introduce a new subclass to each of the main classes but took away one as well – in the end, you have more of the same. I do like the new subclasses but I also liked the old ones that they took away. Why not have 4? Why not add a whole new class to begin with, with another four subclasses? Why not actually invest some time and energy in moving the game forward?

New  Race

The Humans, Awoken and Exo have always been your options and I am not even that concerned that you needed to add a new player race – but at bare minimum they should have added a new enemy race! No, you are still fighting the fat-bastards from Mars, the sentient microwaves from Venus,  the Walking dead on the Moon not-Zombies and the four armed gang members from Earth all over again. Not a single new race. Each got a few minor tweaks (Fallen stealth classes now shoot from range instead of melee with swords, for example) but we are very much in the “you have seen this before. Nothing new. Move along” territory of it all. And that is extremely disappointing.  They literally mostly spent time recoloring skins on enemies.

New Narrative

Much has been made of the story being front and center in Destiny 2 and they have definitely upped the production value there. I will give them that. The problem is, the story is just bad.  Somehow our defenses that have stood for centuries were easily overcome by a Cabal member and his army and our immortality stolen by a fence put around a moon. For an hour. Then you lose all of your gear and everyone hides on three new planets. You can’t visit the old planets, or areas – they are no longer accessible – magically poofed away – but the new planets have the same enemies with minor changes and soft excuses to go explore them. They didn’t even add voice lines for the hero. They doubled down on the Mute Immortal  Zombie Savior story line. It’s weak. It’s bad. It was mailed in. This was their chance to reset this part of the game (and it has always been my biggest complaint) and they did it very poorly.

There is some Good

I don’t have that many great weapons yet but whoever designed the guns, scoping in/iron sights, feel of shooting should get a raise. The guns feel so very different and so very cool – I always enjoyed scout rifles and recently got one that has a scope on it – not as far as a sniper rifle but just enough zoom – and every time I get a new gun to play around with I marvel with how different it feels and how well they have done with that aspect. Each class now also has a third special ability and that does feel new and great (my Titan can make a half wall, and scoping in/out behind it auto reloads my gun – this makes taking out large groups of enemies from range smooth and extra fun. Bonus is that my teammates also get the advantage. Guilds/Clans looks to be an great new feature – hopefully as a solo player I can find one that will take me in.

Destiny 2 struggles because it isn’t a MMO per se, but a shared world RPG shooter.  The complaints people had about Destiny 1 were given some attention but not really solved, and in some ways it feels like  more was taken away then added. The shooting is still great but I feel like their attempt at a narrative took away from being forced to build your own in D1 – many players probably had a more coherent, believable story line in their own heads for what was going on. I know I did.

When the bosses to date are all re-skins of the old bosses with most of the same gameplay mechanics you can tell this “sequel” should have been called an expansion and they could have introduced these new mechanics on the new planets and left the old worlds around – giving more content for players to enjoy. Instead, we have all bought in on the new title purchase (and many, including myself, pre-bought two DLC packs). I have heard some praise it that this what Destiny 1 should have been and they have dealt with some of the inventory and loot issues (while adding blatant, money grabbing mechanic issues – google “Destiny 2 shaders”) and if you are a new player who doesn’t care about story depth this is an ok place to start in the Destiny IP. If you are a Destiny 1 player who just loves the gun play of D1 and the hunt for marginal, iterative loot improvements this will also make you pretty happy. If you were a Destiny 1 Crucible player you may want to read someone more on the PVP side of things – I know they made smaller fire teams and less control of maps, etc. – but I haven’t done PVP yet. If you were a Destiny 1 player who saw incredible bones of a game with much unrealized potential then Destiny 2 – so far – is the exact same feeling.

I am not giving up on it yet, I will finish the campaign and hope things turn around.

Stop Me If You Think You Have Played This One Before : Destiny 2

I have. It was called Destiny.

I know it isn’t fair to judge a game solely on the first hour and a half of playtime – but it is definitely fair to comment on that time as the “first impression”. And that is, sadly, that Destiny 2 feels like a poorly done expansion to Destiny 1. Somehow, the graphics feel worse. Everything else feels perfectly familiar except now you are starting from square one. Not sure how an expansion negates the total effort of the previous three years plus feels like a step back in the game overall. It actually kind of felt like a step back from the demo/beta. I don’t think I have felt this disappointed in a game I was very excited for at launch. At least not so quickly.

First off I ultimately decided to get Destiny 2 for PS4 although I was convinced I would save myself for PC.  Not because I want to play it on all systems (I won’t – I don’t like the thought of going through all the same motions in 6 weeks when the PC launches. Cross saves / progression should be a thing by now). It was because when I did the ‘beta’ PC version something was missing that I really loved about playing Destiny on the PS4. The haptic feedback. It is missing from the PC version and I didn’t realize how much immersion that adds. So, in order to get all the shiny bonuses, I bought the Digital Deluxe version of the game and it pre-loaded last night when I was sleeping. I was up early this morning and booted up the game for a fresh start at 5am.

Except nothing was fresh about it. The introductory mission was the same we did, except we didn’t get to play with the new super / spec. The whole “you have lost your powers and are weak now” angle lasted for the whole entirety of the first hour. All that changed in the game is that you lost your loot and you lost your abilities. It’s like World of Warcraft deleting all of your character and forcing you to start from level one again, on the old graphics engine, as their new expansion premise. This doesn’t feel new or exciting  – it feels like an expansion – but one that does not build off of the past but replaces it. The first “mission” is a slow slog through a decimated city – which has some merit if you stop to look around, but the game forces you to a slow crawl. You shoot 10-15 dogs in the wilderness and then get “rescued”. The second “mission” is basically a reskin of the Destiny 1 mission where you unlock your third sub-spec. You get unlimited supers and get to bash around. That was fun! Except, again, I have already played that mission in Destiny 1 (which was a better, longer and more interesting version of it) It isn’t new. It was a step backwards.

The real kick in the jeans is that there is no new race, no new class, and actually less specializations to start.  Again, backwards.

Those are my first impressions. I haven’t given up on the game but am preparing myself to just be playing a new version of Destiny 1. I have no clue how they are going to surprise or impress me at this point, or move away from that. I really hope they do and that it is just a slow start.

My tears aren’t the same as the Aggronaut’s, at this point. Unfortunately so.

Destiny – A Game With No Competitor

It did strike me as odd, as I played through the Destiny 2 ‘beta’ on PC last night that no other company has tried their hand at taking dollars away from Destiny.  This is quite shocking, actually, when you think about it. Gaming studios are much like movie studios – they tend to launch the same kind of movies and themes around the same time to not lose out on market share and dollars. We see this all the time in gaming too. Overwatch and Paladins are fighting for the resurgent twitchy team shooting space originally built by Team Fortress 2, and you can add Gigantic and Lawbreakers to that list as well (among others). Success breeds spawns of similar design, some of which may end up being more successful than the original. There is effort to do this, at bare minimum.

League of Legends popularity spawned DOTA 2, Heroes of the Storm, SMITE, and a whole other slew of MOBAs. There are usually a lot of competition among popular genres at any given time. This is why it completely shocks me that no other studio is battling for the CO-OP RPG-PVE shooter environment that Destiny has built. There isn’t a title I know similar to Destiny and when there is a multi-billion dollar property out there, ripe to cash in on and around, I just can’t fathom why other studios aren’t taking a shot at the space.

There are really low hanging fruit to capture here. Destiny 2 still refused to offer LFG matchmaking for their Raids – arguably the most requested feature by the player base. It was completely ignored in favor of a method of picking up singles into pre-made groups. This was clearly done so they could save themselves the man hours of tweaking the difficulties of the raid and/or reprogramming rewards based on difficulty. The entire rest of the game is already based on auto-matchmaking so we know there is no  lack of expertise or network code for it. With their ties to Blizzard there is also internal expertise on how to do a proper casual raid LFG style stystem. I still haven’t seen the raids in Destiny 1 (and I never will) and that will most likely be the same in D2. In this day and age of accessibility it just doesn’t make sense. Less than 20% of players were able to enjoy that content.

The road less traveled?

The second improvement is still the story. While they plan on much improving the narrative in Destiny 2 they did double down on the zombie narrative, that I made a complete mockery of, way back in 2014 when it launched. The story was so broken upon launch that the best sense we could make of it is that we are a zombie army, arisen to terrorize the universe. It made as much sense as what they were offering at the time. In Destiny 2, Bungie actually enforced silliness that with the Zavala origin story video showing that Guardians are indeed, immortal. He dies, is brought back to life, keeps fighting, dies, rinses, repeats. Not at any one point do the bad guys try to really, really kill him. They shoot him once and then walk away. (cut off the head, burn the body, launch into space… try SOMETHING).  I also made fun of this more recently as it continues to be completely absurd. In Destiny 2 the story does revolve around losing the ability to be reincarnated and I sincerely hope that is gone for good, and this is Bungie’s way of finally killing off the immortal zombie apocalypse from a good-guy perspective narrative.

Every time I complain about the story, I feel compelled to mention how every other part of the game works near perfectly – from the missions, to the open world mission opportunities, to the RPG aspects, and tight shooting mechanics. I know it sounds silly to say this next line – but it is a multi-billion dollar franchise that hasn’t even met it’s full potential yet. Which is why I wish another studio would take a crack at it, to build upon the solid foundation. With Destiny 2 feeling more like an expansion than a whole new game at this point there are probably a lot of  Destiny players open to a new experience as well.

And for some reason, no one is interested in giving them a run for their money, to take a piece of the pie, or to build something even more coherent, tangible, and fun.

That shocks me more than the terrible story narrative.

This and That

Destiny

Hot off the heels of me ranting about the ridiculousness of the base premise of Destiny – I am happy to report I spent most of my rainy, Canadian long weekend playing Destiny. It is not hypocritical to me because as a PVE shooter it is a wonder and a beauty to behold.  Which is why I think I get ever so frustrated with the invincible zombie premise. If you are in no danger of dying, as per the video last post, then you are in no danger of losing. Which means just keep dying and pushing through and eventually  you will win. There is not a good story premise – it takes out any sort of drama from it. It is a foregone conclusion, story wise. Just keep eating brains, immortal zombie.

My Warlock

Man, is it ever such a great game if you ignore that part though. I started the weekend at 320(ish) light level and got to 385. A lot of zen grind in there and I loved every minute. I just had to suspend the provided story and create my own. At 385 the gear grind gets very tight (as a non raider) as only purple engrams (the drops that loot-box into items) give upgrades. And each is giving a 386-387. Which means the going from here on out is just going to get tough and in tiny increments. With the Destiny 2 beta coming in the summer and the game itself in less than four months there isn’t a ton of desire to get to 400. We will lose everything anyway. Still, with being uninspired by other games right now – and not having a “go to” game – it is filling fun gaming time nicely.

I am now working on my Titan. Of which, I suspect will be my “main” again in Destiny 2. They redid the sub-classes for D2 and the Defender Titan will now have a Void shield (a la Captain America) which they can use not unlike the Captain – blocking things, chucking it to bounce in between enemies and the like. With the armor style above it is not hard to imagine an Iron Man / Captain America combo.  It looks like a blast. I hope it plays as fun as it looks.

Overwatch

I have never played this, up until last night. My son (now 12) plays it with his friends. I was never a big fan of Team Fortress 2 and other spammy shooters but watching him play a lot made me curious to check it out. I only played against AI to sort through the various characters available and it wasn’t bad shooting mechanics wise but there is so much going on and so little feedback I felt quite lost for some time. For example – I was playing a healer who had the ultimate skill to ressurect any dead team members in the vicinity – but I couldn’t find anywhere if team members were dead. You should have a team profile in a corner somewhere to show who is dead and/or alive, and where they are. At one point it DID tell me two were dead and I am not sure if I missed it the first time or whatnot – so I hit it and it worked, but I was very confused by it. I played bots on Easy and Medium and was fine, got some nice kill streaks and won rounds (as you should against AI, right?) As soon as I put the AI match to ‘hard’ we got destroyed. Utterly and completely. I felt very inadequate.

My son did tell me he struggles against those bots too, which was oddly comforting coming from a twelve year old.

I am not sure if I am going to continue much – I will try my hand with online play against ‘evenly matched’ humans and if the fact I am a year behind is grossly evident (even at same level) there isn’t much hope of me sticking with it. I know from other shooters high ranking players get bored and start new characters just to auto-faceroll noobs like me. Hopefully Blizzard has solved that problem (which would be VERY EASY to solve) but if not it’s fine – but whether I buy it on PC or not depends on my PS4 experience.

Green Lantern

Side stepping games – I love the Green Lantern. This is odd because I grew up a Marvel ‘guy’ and didn’t spend much time, effort or money in the DC universe. I do not know where I became interested in Green Lantern but I do remember being in a local hobby/gaming store and seeing “The Sinestro Corps” graphic novel – of which, I heard was quite well done. I bought it and read it – and it IS quite well done. Now I have the desire to learn more and become more deeply involved in the Green Lantern lore. This lead me to thinking of buying other, critically acclaimed graphic novels (Blackest Night) but also look at gaming options. First, and most obvious – is DCUO – a game I have never played. I have installed it but have not fired it up yet (on PC). I have googled tutorials on how to build a Green Lantern character but have also read that you have to buy an expansion first in able to do so. I had this same issue with the Warden class in Lord of The Rings Online – the one character type I was most interested in playing was gated behind an expansion of which, I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy because I wanted to play that character to BEGIN with to decide if I was going to invest in the game. It took me years (literally) to make that decision in LOTRO and I finally broke down and bought the expansion on a big sale to get the Warden. It still remains the only reason why I am considering playing LOTRO, and the biggest motivator for me to dip my toe into DCUO. I am not sure if that is a fair expectation on good old Hal Jordan.

The second option is Injustice 2 – the fighting game from the DC Universe which as been reviewed incredibly well – so much so that when I went to go buy it at Best Buy they were sold out of the PS4 version. I didn’t buy it online because I have a $70 GC from Best Buy and wanted to use it for that, so I have held off. I have not played Injustice 1 and I am still mildly hesitant to buy a game for a single character that may be a terrible experience as anyway.

That is where I find myself at odds – I am making great money and in a part of my life where I have the most disposable cash ever – but am less likely to part with it on odd grounds – on principle, rather than on reason. Perhaps that is a sign I am getting old. Maybe just unreasonable. Maybe a little from column A and column B.

In General

I still don’t have “that game” right now so remain in an uncomfortable position (like the back of a volkswagon? – bonus points if you know where that is from) of bouncing around half interested in various games, all loaded and ready for me to enjoy at my whim. In the past week I have logged into and/or played (in no particular order or reason) – GW2, LOTRO, EQ, Destiny, The Division and have loaded up many more in the background – Wildstar, DCUO, EQ2. I don’t do well playing the field and need to commit soon for maximum enjoyment. When is Secret World Legends out again?

Destiny 2 – Immortal Zombies Unite

Destiny is a game that I loved everything about except the story. I made a ton of fun of the story. It ate me apart from the inside just thinking about it. Trying to understand the story was equal to drinking a bottle of acid. Maybe it goes down okay in the first instant, but the longer it goes the worse it gets for you – and quickly. It breaks down all the systems and organs that make you live, until you are just a hollow, former shell of a human being.  Destiny is, without a doubt, the best PVE shooter out there right now. It does a lot right – pretty much everything! (except the story. Did I mention that?)

Hello, Destiny 2. You can get better! Guess how?! Re-read my first mini paragraph and take that wild guess.  I am not even going to dignify it by making it rhetorical. I have faith in you dear reader.

Let’s start with a really nice origin story for one of the lead NPC characters in the game. 

I made fun of the plot of Destiny because basically you are a zombie. I suspected that the true twist in the story is that we are the bad guys – the evil zombies and the rest of the galaxy is trying to rid us of our ways. I have a whole post about it here, complete and using grimoire entries to try and make sense of it all.

I never once suspected we were immortal zombies. Yes, immortal zombies. That is what Destiny 2 and the video above is showing.

Have you heard anything quite so stupid lately? (In before you say yes because you read my posts here. Touche.)

But really. Watch the video. Guy comes back to life. Gets killed. Left there. Brought back to life. Gets killed. Left there. Brought back to life…

Now, I know that the enemies are some sort of sentient life – they can fight, they stand upright, they communicate, they build and fly space ships, advanced technology, etc…. so we can agree there is some semblance of intelligence. They also know about the zombie (Guardian) outbreak because they have been fighting them for years. So here is a tip. If you know that walking away from a zombie without cutting it up into little pieces, destroying the brain, burning it into little ashes, etc. that it is just going to come back and kill you, then why walk away?

I know games try to build believable stories about how you die in games and come back. Instead of spelling out the immortal zombie theatrics in an expensive CGI narrative, just have the Guardian brought back to life once, chosen. That is a cool backstory about being selected.  If death happens then just rewind to where you were still alive (the save game state, waypoint, etc.) and try again. In game – story wise – you never did die. Game wise and player wise, you did, but how in the heck are you supposed to explain how you were blown to bits, and reappeared near the same spot at the same (or similar) moment in time? The Player is supposed to learn from their mistakes and take their redo, and just imagine that they didn’t die in the first place.

Or, I guess, you could just be an immortal zombie.

Take your pick.

Things I Don’t Like About the Division

Should I tell you how I really feel?

Even though that is a far less eloquent title than normal there is a lot I think I should like about The Division –  but a few key items are holding back that full endorsement. I do find it odd that people compare it to Destiny as it is a very different style and format, although I do agree that they compete for the same “time slot”. It’s like having The Simpsons and Family Guy on at the same time. Right now, for me, even with lack of content and progression, Destiny is the Simpsons. It boils down to three simple things, and I will use Destiny as a comparative in them as well.

  1. Snow: It is the only environment I have seen. I get the feeling that that’s all there is, because of the beautiful way the background has been rendered. In Destiny every planet you went to had a theme so you were able to get a lot of different looks and feels. Right now you have snowy streets, foggy, snowy streets, and snowy, snowy streets. There are indoor zones that have some differentiation but for the most part you are walking down streets. A lot. Snowy ones.
  2. Gear: I am not even level 20 yet so maybe this does get better but I have gone through over a dozen pair of gloves that may or may not be different. I may have missed it, but can’t zoom in on the gloves to see the detail in the work to understand how they may differentiate. Sure, the shader or color may change from dark blue #544 to dark blue #677 but the gear change just hasn’t been that noticeable. Scarves, hats, etc. are but that is a far cry from feeling like you are moving along the gear train. So far there has been little differentiation and I am starting to wonder if there is even a point. There is SO much variation in Destiny between classes and options (including shaders) that the lack thereof in The Division is very noticeable.
  3. Dark Zone: No, I haven’t played it. And before you get all “how can you review something you haven’t played” I am going to be all like “I hate it thematically so not going to play it”. I get it, they need to find a reason for PVP. I just don’t like it among the very cool and engaging story line so far. It feels like such a senseless bolt on that they could have done better.  I will dip in eventually, but the idea behind it has already left a bad taste in my mouth
  4. Real World limitations: Because it is based on today / everyday life you can’t go too far outside of that realism. Mechanics are shoot, grenade, advanced things (such as turrets) fit okay, but it is limiting on the types of things you can fight. People.  This limits mechanics and other interesting options. It has given some variety so far but it feels (fairly) far more constrained.

I want to like The Division more, and I am far from being done with it – my attention is just being drawn elsewhere currently and I feel like those deficiencies (in my mind) are holding me back from making it a focus. I haven’t done any grouping yet so perhaps that will help. I will play through the story campaign and see if any of the above changes. The good news is, with such low expectations, it will be easy to surprise me.

 

Destiny 2 Wishlist

With my new PC on delivery delay (went from April 25th to May 18th)  and still stuck in a trickling advancement with Destiny – I did get my Division code from Razor and installed it on my old Laptop. I really feel like that game might be best played on the PS4. 60″ TV and all. It was also hard to transition to the third person shooter aspect after being focused on Destiny for most of my gaming time. Granted, I only played for 15 minutes this morning but the backdrops were really beautiful as I went through a decimated New York.

Drifting on thoughts on what I’d like to see in Destiny 2 which is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2017. My wish list is simple for the game and it is mostly made up of things I wish Destiny 1 had. That is what sequels are for anyway, right? So here goes. With the why:

  1. Ships as social hubs: It is annoying to have to land at the tower to grab Vanguard bounties everyday. It has zero benefit except to land, run 20 steps, click 8 times, then orbit. Make ships social areas for friends but also have access to vendors either directly or via communication devices.. Shades of the old KOTOR here. The ships are awesome and fun to collect but offer nothing in terms of game play except to act as a transition phase to instances.
  2. Ships as content: With amazing space ships should come cool ship battles. Or at least some type of game to truly enjoy them. It could just be such a bigger part of the game, even if not a core or super important one. Some sort of shooting mini game as you approach a landing or something similar.
  3. Matchmaking for all levels and styles of game play: If WoW can make LFR tools for their most complex and challenging raid content then there is no excuse or reason why Bungie can’t do the same. Heck, just walk down the hall (figuratively) and ask.
  4. Vehicles: I really don’t expect this and it would be getting a bit too close to Planetside but there is an opportunity in Destiny to add in a bit more interaction on the vehicle front. The Sparrow races were a really cool feature.  There could be more opportunities to use vehicles as part of the game play
  5. Cross platform Play: Really don’t see what the point is in not having this – especially since it is the exact same game on all platforms. I get that PC doesn’t play well with Consoles (easier to shoot with a mouse) so maybe you need to restrict PVP in certain situations.  The health of the community would be far better off with more players. I also find it pretty funny that the PS4 got some exclusives – the sparrow for example – which now every single player in the game has. It does not feel exclusive one bit. Showing it off to your Xbox friends with a friendly side dose of trash talk would make exclusives have some sort of sense.

I am tapped out on the game and miss it. I can’t really advance past 315 without a ton of grind or a ton of luck. I did start leveling a Warlock but that is hard to go back to the basics when the higher end game play is so much fun. Until some DLC or D2 arrives I will have some options but I am now at the point where thinking about Destiny 2 is taking up more of my time than playing Destiny 1.

Do you have any hopes or dreams for D2?

Dead End with Destiny

Well, the love affair with Destiny has come to a standstill along with my character progression. That is a 100% correlation.

My Titan is “stuck” at 312 light level. This stuck mode is my conundrum because I can’t do the next level of challenges until I hit 320 light level, and I don’t believe I can get there unless I play the game the way I don’t want to.

The ways (that I can sort out, there isn’t really much clarity on it in game) that I can advance my character further is as follows:

  1. Weekly Nightfall Strike – 320 light, no matchmaking
  2. Challenge of Elders – 320 light, no matchmaking
  3. Kings Fall Raid – 300 light, no matchmaking
  4. The Iron Banner – PVP
  5. The Court of Oyrx – PVE world event
  6. Lord Shaxx Bounties – PVP

Of that group I can only/want to do Court of Oryx. I did grind out a bunch of them on the weekend but wasn’t fortunate enough to get the 320 – 335 gear as advertised. I don’t enjoy (and I am terrible at) PVP so far, and with my sketchy schedule and lack of “friends” at PS4 non matchmaking events are hard for me to do.

This is all me, not Destiny, so I am not really complaining. This is where the WoW treatment would be awesome for a player like me (LFR anyone?) . My Hunter is already light level 300 and my Warlock is only level 7 so I could still play by redoing the content I have been already.  With Destiny 2 a year away there needs to be a compelling reason for me to keep doing existing. Moving my character forward was fun enough in the existing content but when that tap dries, what else is there?

Maybe I am missing something but I would love to hear the experience of better and other Destiny players who have passed where I am stuck at to see if there is something else I could be doing to advance.

My new laptop arrives this week with The Division as a bundle, so Destiny may be losing a big fan of the game and someone playing many hours a week. I wonder if other people are in the same boat.

The realization of my full on casualness is in full acceptance. I feel shame.

Revisiting Destiny

I had a huge itch to play a shooter this weekend. I miss the genre. I remember playing DOOM death matches over baud modems in my university dorm in the 90’s. I mostly fell out of the genre because of the direction it took. I loved Rainbow Six and the types of shooters that smarts and tactics could prevail over straight twitch. This is why I never really played any of the Call of Duty games (well, the single player campaigns I did, but stayed away from online) and the ultimate online shooter for me was Battlefield 2142 which was a nice mix of squad play and tactics over pure twitch. I still HATED bunny hopping in that game too, but that was about the worst you had to worry about.

Fast forward to today and I am currently FPS game-less. I didn’t finish Fallout 4 but that is far more RPG than FPS. I haven’t played the Battlefield series since 2142 (almost played the followup, until I discovered they removed the ability to go prone. Since when can human beings not lie down to shoot a gun?) Project Reality, which is still my favourite FPS of all time takes a lot of time to get in and out of – and I need to be able to get in and out quickly. I was very close to buying the Division, until I found out that my cries to my IT department for more graphics and computing power in a small form did not go unheard – and this is coming to me end of April (which has a free copy of the Division). I started looking and reading on what could satisfy my itch, and I found I already DID have a title, just one I haven’t played in a long time.

Destiny.

Destiny is the game that has the dumbest story ever (ok, maybe a bit harsh. Dumbest story ever written by a AAA company. Hell, a basic understandable story, even full of tropes and tired and rehashed elements would have been better.) I summed it up on this post pretty simple, based off of the OUT of game Grimoire cards. I mean, who wants to read or experience lore IN game?

First off, there are high level themes of light and darkness.

It’s odd that the enemy that threw the universe into a tizzy isn’t something tangible or something anyone can agree on. I’d understand an army (or whatnot) but just a premise, a theory – how does that “attack”? None of this is really clear. Does it even exist or it is an evil inside each of us? Something hit us. Not an army, not a force to be reckoned with. Philosophy hit us and it hurt! How do we have a collapse and not know our enemy? At least we have a clear hero! The Traveler. Our lord and savior.

The Traveler, graphically, is a giant ball of light hovering above the last city on Earth.  It doesn’t communicate through itself per se, but through The Speaker.

Here the speaker is described as a high priest. So we have a savior that doesn’t directly communicate to us who sacrificed itself to stop an attack by a theory or premise on all that we hold dear. The Traveler’s gift to stop the attack? Zombies! (aka – Guardians)

That’s right, the good guys are raising the dead to kill the uh, bad guys. Who don’t raise the dead. But you aren’t just any Zombie, you are one who was at a Russian spaceport! For some reason. Maybe shopping.

Oh, the “Ghost” – I forgot to explain that part. The “Ghost” brought you back from the dead and you need a “Ghost” to be your guide. A mechanical creature that (unlike you) cannot be replaced if it is killed.

So the Guardians are completely replaceable but the machines that Jiminy Cricket us are invaluable. I’m confused a bit. Who are the good guys again? The “light” zombies (Warlocks, Hunters, Titans) or the aliens that represent “darkness” (Knights, Wizards, Captains, Legionnaires). Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe the “Darkness” is actually the good guy – trying to wipe the space zombies from the universe. That makes far more sense than what we have been given so far.

OK, so maybe I was a little harsh, but c’mon, drop $10,000 on writers and you get better than that. I blame drugs.

The good part is, outside of a terrible, embarrassingly deficient story, you have a really nice shooter all packaged up. It’s responsive, has great backdrops, a good PVE questing system, a group finder / CO-OP strike mission system, cool weapons and armor, and great customization – both in terms of skill trees and appearance. There is an awesome game there despite the story.

There has also been three expansions since I played last. The main reason why I quit last time was because I upgraded to a PS4 and of course my XBOX 360 characters couldn’t come with me, so starting fresh on a new system (after all the grinding and leveling I had already done) was enough of a deterrent to just give up on the game. But now I had fresh interest and the PVE component of it fit for me. So I started again.

The story is still, incredibly terrible. I think I have made that pretty clear. I’m just disappointed because of the huge opportunity it had (has?).

The game play is very good. My titan is level 16 with many levels to go (24) and new story lines and things to do from my last time in the game. I’m hoping when I get further along maybe they tied up some of the story elements but I am still guessing no, since every time I meet a new enemy or area, a prompt on the screen tells me to go to Bungie.Net to learn about it. I can still play this game despite this fault. For now.

Maybe the Division will free me from this Destiny.

The Tombstone Quandary

There is a quandary around movies that I noticed in the 90’s where movie studios are afraid to be left behind in the market. When one was making a movie about, say, Tombstone  the other major one would follow-up eerily close with Wyatt Earp. Big studio coming out with a disaster movie about Volcanos? Better not be left behind! I often wondered if this was a product of individuals afraid of losing their jobs (I hear X studio is doing this, and if we don’t and it does well, my job may be at stake) or more of a big wig ego thing – who could outdo one another in the same area. Regardless of why it happened(s) a lot the movie Tombstone  always comes to mind to me because I *loved* Tombstone but disliked its clone, Wyatt Earp. In fact, while researching this thought I found a whole Wikipedia page dedicated, by decade, to instances of this happening. And the list is monstrous!. Funny enough in many cases one is a complete flop while the other is successful and it’s always a curiosity on to who had the original idea and who is just trying to keep up with the Joneses. The movie making Joneses. Either way, it’s an interesting phenomenon to me.

Thankfully I don’t see the same trend in games and game making. Sure, some will emulate successful titles but in movies both race to release and compete at the same time – whereas in gaming it seems as though devs wait to see how a game does and then how to differentiate – it’s much more open with a lot less guessing but a lot of time passes by between releases.

I bring all of this up because with great interest I have started following “The Division” which has the basis for an amazing story (remember that basis?) and the third person shooter elements seem like it could be a big hit. Tom Clancy games are traditionally well done. And then, suddenly, I started reading scary things such as articles about Division trying to be like Destiny, the “Always playing, always improving”. Grinding out epic loot tiers on.. sub machine guns in a modern setting? Getting a -5 to recoil and such and at this thought process, I realize, they are probably doing it wrong.

Sure, I get it – they want Destiny sales numbers but don’t really know for sure why that is. I’m worried if they focus on the parts of Destiny that pushes people away and think that is the money-maker, they’ll make a dud. The last thing I would want as an upcoming game is a direct comparison to ANY title out there. Oh, it is just like Destiny. It’s just like World of Warcraft! It’s just like… doomed to fail because it’s like something else but won’t be exactly the same. In my humble opinion if you just build an amazing story with your other elements you will get longevity. Don’t just build a loot treadmill. These new FPS MMOs seem to be taking the worst parts of MMOs and applying it to the FPS genre. Take the best parts instead, or at bare minimum, as well.

 

Facepalm Design Decision: September Edition

[Author’s note – I wrote this one night after a long day. When I reread it in the morning it is far more “ranty” than I normally write. I thought about editing and taming it a bit, but in the end, decided to keep it intact. This is how I felt about it when I discovered it and the frustration I share here in the style recorded is the result of having a great day of playing the game, and then stumbling upon this design decision.]

Oh Destiny. Thank you for all the blog posts you have provided me (and the 20+ hours of gameplay). Unfortunately, we need to have a little talk. This talk is about levelling! And no, I am not going to complain about grinding the same 6 strike missions because hey, you actually give more to do than that. We need to talk about your subclass system. I know that you are known for FPS games and this trek down MMO lane is a new thing for you. It’s fresh after all those Halo games you made and hey, why not? MMOs can charge sub fees and while you haven’t been brave enough to try that yet, you still have levels and exciting things for players to do at and on their way to the level cap. One of them, is a class specialization. Here you need to take your FPS hat off and put on your MMO hat. Actually, I have a hat for you!

I know, that’s mean. That poor Halo designer looks sad. Here is the thing – when I hit level 15, which is technically 75% of the level cap (unless you count your light levels, which also changes things up) and I get my specialization here is the one tip I give to you as a gamer. Don’t make me start at level 1. It’s a specialization! If I wanted to start at level 1 I would make a new character. A specialization is a way for me to advance my character, not go backwards.

For those who aren’t playing, haven’t gotten there yet or are confused at my dripping sarcasm and condemnation here – once you click on your specialization you have to start levelling all the basic skills of it from scratch AND you lose your current skills. Somehow, at level 15, you forget how to throw a grenade, or even jump! So you have level 15 (19 in my case) armor and guns, blues, rares, high level items. You have done some shit and seen the evils of war. But you aren’t allowed to throw grenades anymore and you can’t even jump like you could in that epic battle on Venus.

C’mon Man! Bungie!

To be clear you can swap back and forth between the specializations but not simply midfight or anything. You don’t actually “lose” your skills you just can’t use ANY of them while you level up the “subclass”.  That includes jumping over three feet and throwing grenades.

The best way to put it for those who haven’t played Destiny is that if this was WoW, when you swapped into your healing spec in dual specialization, you would have to start at level one and earn all of your healing spells again. Grind 1-90 before you can heal. Swap back to your main spec and you are max level, swap to secondary and you are level 1. Does that sound like fun to you? How does this make sense?

Here is a tip – if you wanted 6 classes then have 6 classes. If you want 3 classes with sub-specs then have 3 classes with sub-specs. RIght now you have a bastardization of a class system that doesn’t really fit either. This is pretty good evidence (as anecdotal as it may be!) that you:

[List brought to you by the hot and cold game – remember that?]

  1. Want players to take a step back and not enjoy the game, because you want them to stop playing [cold]
  2. Have no clue how to design a levelling system [getting warmer]
  3. Knew that your content was so thin that you really had to reach for new and creative ways to grind out players [warmer still]
  4. Have something sinister up your sleeve like introducing pay to level packs, or monetary XP boosts [warning! hot!]
  5. Were drinking Mai-Tais in the Caribbean counting your cash while you had junior programmers put this together [colder. but fun to write]

To me this is a face palming design decision. Grinds are ok when done correctly. You don’t even have to hide them. This just completely makes no sense and is a real shock to me. I was ready to start levelling my sub-class but not ready to start over. If you don’t value my time – my personal entertainment time – then I won’t value your expansion packs and other things you want me to buy.

Bungie – Remember when you were the cool, hip Halo designers who made awesome FPS and story based games? You should go back there. You can still keep the money.

The Destiny Story

The benefit to not having a clear story in a game is that we get to make up our own. My Destiny play through is actually very clear – Guardians are white cells (leukocytes), and the Fallen and Hive are various diseases. It all happens as a visualization of a 5 year old, after hearing how white blood cells fight disease and infection from his doctor. The “ghost” is a pill the doctor gave him to help the white blood cells fight the bad diseases. The various settings are different parts of the body. The earth is the heart, Venus is the lungs, the moon is the butt, and you don’t even want to know what the tower is.  This will all be revealed at level 30, when the camera zooms out from inside the boy and to a tree top, over looking his backyard. It’s a huge plot twist!

We’ll call the above story “Dinkelaging” and whoever has played Destiny will get the value attributed to anything Dinkelaged.

Jack-assery aside, in the most obvious of impressions, Destiny has some pretty religious undertones and themes running through it. I am not even religious in the traditional practicing sort of way and even I recognized them. The hard part to sort with the quality of the writing invested is if it is so obvious because the writing was just uninspired, or if there is a much larger plot at work. I am guessing the former but will be absolutely ecstatic if we are pleasantly surprised throughout the life of this IP. I am not holding my breath. I am going to walk through the base premise of the game using the only lore available. All of the below quotes are directly from Grimoire cards that reflect each topic. The Grimoire cards are the out of game lore bits that you have to have an app or webpage to reference.

First off, there are high level themes of light and darkness.

Here is the Grimoire card for the Darkness – it’s long.

Something hit us. Killed our Golden Age. Nearly wiped us out. Only the Traveler saved us, and at a shattering cost.The Speaker tells of a cosmic force that swept over us and caused the Collapse. Legend calls it the Darkness, the Traveler’s ancient enemy, which hunted it across space. All we have left are questions. Centuries of debate gave birth to competing arguments on the nature of the Darkness and the Collapse. The Pujari Position describes the Darkness as a force with both physical and moral presence, an actualization of evil. Pujari art depicts the Darkness as a great storm, or as a change in conduct, a corruption that emerged from within and poisoned the Golden Age. Saint-14’s Position argues that the Darkness was an invading armada, an alien force of incredible – but tangible – power. Some adherents believe that this armada sprang from species rejected or discarded by the Traveler for their sins. Ulan-Tan’s Thesis considers the Darkness a necessary symmetry to the Traveler in a cosmic balance. In this view, the Traveler’s goodness led it to sacrifice for others, and it is up to us to return this goodness by healing the Traveler. The Monist Position, or the Deflationary Position, considers the Darkness as a technologically sophisticated force, perhaps a post-Singularity intelligence. Adherents invoke information theory or contend that the universe is a simulation, allowing advanced intelligence to gain weakly acausal powers by bending the rules. The Acataleptic Clause claims that we are intrinsically unable to understand the Darkness. In many respects this belief parallels the Praxic Creed, which suggests that we should stop worrying about the nature of the Darkness and focus on resisting and defeating it. Certain positions – often labeled heretical – imply that the Traveler itself triggered the Collapse, or that it knew the Darkness was coming for it and hoped to use the Solar System as a sacrifice or a proxy army. The Binary Star cult is one notable example.

It’s odd that the enemy that threw the universe into a tizzy isn’t something tangible or something anyone can agree on. I’d understand an army (or whatnot) but just a premise, a theory – how does that “attack”? None of this is really clear. Does it even exist or it is an evil inside each of us? Something hit us. Not an army, not a force to be reckoned with. Philosophy hit us and it hurt! How do we have a collapse and not know our enemy? At least we have a clear hero! The Traveler. Our lord and savior.

Everything changed with the coming of the Traveler. It gave us gifts that transformed the solar system and the nature of human life. It ushered in the Golden Age, a time of miracles. But it never shared its deepest secrets. Where did the Traveler come from? Why did it offer us so much? Did it know it was being hunted across the stars? And why, when the Darkness came, did it choose to stay and fight for us? Now the Traveler hangs, silent, above humanity’s final sanctuary. It may be healing. It may be dying. It gave everything it had to save us. And now its power lies with us, its Guardians.

The Traveler, graphically, is a giant ball of light hovering above the last city on Earth.  It doesn’t communicate through itself per se, but through The Speaker.

There has always been a Speaker, an anonymous high priest with a mysterious and powerful connection to the Traveler and its Ghosts. In all the centuries of the City’s history, the Speaker’s great work has never changed – to guide new Guardians, heal the Traveler, and raise our crippled protector from its slumber.

Here the speaker is described as a high priest. So we have a savior that doesn’t directly communicate to us who sacrificed itself to stop an attack by a theory or premise on all that we hold dear. The Traveler’s gift to stop the attack? Zombies! (aka – Guardians)

Guardians are warriors forged in the Traveler’s Light, a final hope in a universe falling into Darkness. Chosen from the dead by the Traveler’s Ghosts, Guardians are those rare few able to wield the Light as a weapon. For centuries they have defended the City. But that defense cannot hold forever. Now, with the Darkness rising again, the time has come to retake our lost worlds. The Guardians who lead the way will save humanity – and become legend.

That’s right, the good guys are raising the dead to kill the uh, bad guys. Who don’t raise the dead. But you aren’t just any Zombie, you are one who was at a Russian spaceport! For some reason. Maybe shopping.

And so you rise again. Who you were before or how you ended up at the wall of an Old Russian spaceport is a story for another time. You have been chosen by the Traveler as one of our Guardians, gifted with the power to wield its Light in the coming battles of a timeless war. Trust this Ghost. It will guide you on your path.

Oh, the “Ghost” – I forgot to explain that part. The “Ghost” brought you back from the dead and you need a “Ghost” to be your guide. A mechanical creature that (unlike you) cannot be replaced if it is killed.

Built from machinery and the Traveler’s Light, Ghosts guide their Guardian companions in the quest to reclaim our solar system. Every Ghost seeks out its Guardian among the ancient dead. The Ghost serves as scout, librarian, and mechanic, waking ancient machinery and cracking alien codes. In the right situations, a Ghost can even save a Guardian from death. But Ghosts are not immortal. Every loss is irreplaceable.

So the Guardians are completely replaceable but the machines that Jiminy Cricket us are invaluable. I’m confused a bit. Who are the good guys again? The “light” zombies (Warlocks, Hunters, Titans) or the aliens that represent “darkness” (Knights, Wizards, Captains, Legionnaires). Maybe we have it all wrong. Maybe the “Darkness” is actually the good guy – trying to wipe the space zombies from the universe. That makes far more sense than what we have been given so far. I am feeling shades of Oblivion.

So there you have the base story for Destiny. Are you really surprised that there is so much lashing about the provided story (google it, too many links to choose!) in a game that has some solid FPS mechanics in a beautiful backdrop. It’s so very Zoolander.

25 KM with Destiny

I have spent three solid nights playing Destiny on my X-Box 360 and elliptical. I have totalled around 25 kilometers on the athletic device and level 10 on my Titan, 5 on my Hunter, and 2 on my Warlock. I do one hour stints on the elliptical but continue to play a couple hours afterwards on the couch. Need to reward myself for all of that hard work! In the gym world we call those “sets”. I have unlocked Venus and completed my first Strike Mission (aka “instanced dungeon”) and am really improving with FPS gamepad use although it still feels a bit unnatural.

After this time in game it has really strengthened my initial thoughts on Destiny – definitely the way I am choosing to play it, anyway. First off, I am still having fun and believe it was a good buy. The advancement aspects of the game (abilities, weapons and armor, weapons and armor abilities) add flavor and are fun to level up. The earth and the moon are both fun backdrops to shoot things in the head. I have Venus and other planets to still explore. There is a lot to look forward to.

I still have three “big” gripes so far, which of course I’ll share! (thank you for asking)

  1. The lore: You can choose to be an Awoken, Exo, or Human as your character. There is zero explanation anywhere (that I could find) that explains how humans met and/or became aligned with these other races (and obviously, they are extra-terrestrial). They are simply cosmetic options. Perhaps it is the long time MMO or PC gamer in me, but I’d like to know what is compelling about either (besides their looks) in choosing them. Style is only one part in gaming – attitude is equally if not more important. I thought perhaps this would unfold as you play but halfway through the leveling process it doesn’t. There is such a huge opportunity to do this as well and it is completely wasted. Your character is brought back to life (dead for a LONG time) by a “ghost” so learning how the world has changed organically through story and game play would make perfect sense. It doesn’t do this. None of the race (or class) choices have any impact on how things play out.
  2. The story: tied to the above – there is no story – just a series of disjointed objectives for some grander unknown or unclear reason. There is no tie in so far. I am really shocked – weren’t the HALO games predicated around story? Wouldn’t this be the perfect medium to make story better, not worse? I see a huge missed opportunity here with the potential for what is going on in the universe. This is where the future of DLC would be for me – the grander story. Maybe because it’s console focused they don’t need to have one. It shouldn’t be called “Story Mode” it should be “Task Mode”
  3. The AI is some of the worst I have seen in modern day FPSs (to be fair, I am comparing PC FPS AI – I don’t have a console experience equivalent). At best it is the same as FPS games i have played in the last decade. This was an opportunity to really step up the genre not be the status quo. I was fighting through the final Moon “task” mode last night and there was a room that was hard to complete – I started retreating backwards and I hit an invisible line on the ground that soon as I passed, the mobs stopped attacking and turned around. I could still shoot them. Step forward, they turn around and charge. One step back, they turn their backs to me and walk away, I shoot them. Rinse repeat. I figure by now we’d have AI that could respond to visual and environmental cues – not invisible proximity lines. The AI is only challenging because of the quantity and kind of enemies they pile in at you. You are basically fighting piles of bricks with legs and guns. You can win every room by identifying where the enemies are going to spawn from, and go to the opposite side of the room. Besides thralls and certain sword Fallen Knights, the rest just hang back and shoot from afar – really easy to pick off. Worst case scenario if you get swarmed you just have to retreat far enough that they all reset.

Not to be a negative Isey I must say that the whole game changed in the Strike Team mode – it was exhilarating, awesome, and fresh! As a 5 man junkie in MMOs, the 3 man Strike Team adds a big layer of play-ability and fun. Who needs a story when you have bosses to kill? I ran Devil’s Lair twice last night and it was am amazing experience. I read there are 6 currently and hoping they add more as 6 could get stale pretty quick. The Story/task mode I did solo so the commentary I have read that suggests this game is best played with people does seem to be true. I need a wireless headset so I can work the elliptical and group at the same time.

Due to the nature of the release, and the investment in the IP, I can’t help but think – is this ONLY happening because I am using the XBox 360 and it has limitations compared to X1 and PS4? Or are current gen owners seeing the same thing? Its hard to overlook these things due to the kind of gamer I tend to be and with a 500MM investment you think they could have put some more obvious effort into those things. I’d love to hear from current gen system owners if that alone solves these problems.